Public back private sector in education, but not profit


Strong unease over educational institutions making profits has been revealed in new research conducted by populus.

Despite majority backing for free schools and academies (54% of people think they will improve the country’s education standards) the public are concerned about any profit-making in the education sector. 

Whilst the public are open to the idea of the private and third sectors being involved in education (seven out of ten people think private companies and the voluntary sector have a role to play in education), three quarters of those asked would be concerned at an academy or university making a profit, while eight out of ten would be concerned at a private company running an institution doing so.

John Lehal, Managing Director of Insight Public Affairs, said: "The Government has been clear that it wants to introduce extra choice and capacity into the system. However, in order for its ‘education revolution’ to really take off it needs to win public acceptance that this is the best way to raise standards. At the moment it is less than clear that Ministers have done this.

"If the private sector is to play a greater role in the running of schools, it needs to convince parents, teachers and public sector workers in particular that it can do so in a competent and socially responsible way. If voters suspect that providers are entering the system simply to make a fast buck, the Government will never see the sort of public buy-in that is necessary for the policy to gain critical mass."

Laurence Stellings, Populus Consultant, added: "At first sight the public are favourable to education and other public services being provided by any sector as long as they remain free at the point of use. However, levels of concern rise as soon as the suggestion is made that schools might be run for profit. The challenge for education providers is to focus on outcomes and not efficiency to make their case."

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